My Dog Eats Poop – Help!

A dog sniffing through the grasses

Dogs have some pretty endearing habits, but eating poop (either their own or another animals’) is not one of them. Although the behavior is mostly normal, no one wants their dog to raid the litter box or gulp down a stinky snack from the yard or sidewalk.

At All Creatures Veterinary Hospital, we are often asked the question “Why do dogs eat poop?”. Although there is no one answer, we can offer some insight into this unpleasant culinary choice.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Poop-eating, technically known as coprophagia, may be normal, but that doesn’t make it any less upsetting. Watching your sweet pup happily gobble down their own feces or the feces of other animals can be an unpleasant shock to witness. 

Ancestrally, however, coprophagia served an important role – collective poop eating kept the den clean, and mother dogs and wolves routinely clean up after their puppies in this way.

Beyond ingrained ancestral behavior, there are other reasons why dogs eat poop:

  • Boredom
  • Lack or malabsorption of key nutrients 
  • Territorial response to the presence of other pets in the home
  • Hunger
  • The presence of parasites
  • For attention (even negative attention is desirable)
  • The taste, smell, or fiber content in the feces of other animals may appeal to your dog

When Poop Poses a Problem

Coprophagia is never completely safe, as it can potentially expose your pet to parasites and other pathogens. If you catch your dog in the act, give us a call. We can rule out any underlying health conditions that may be to blame. If your pet is a poop-eater, be sure to keep up with brushing their teeth at home! 

If there is no medical reason why your dog eats poop, there are a variety of ways you can work to mitigate the behavior:

  • Pick up after your pet immediately to remove the temptation, or take them outdoors on a leash to prevent access.
  • Switch your dog to a more digestible diet or utilize pet-safe food additives to alter the taste of the stool (please call us for recommendations).
  • Teach your dog the “leave it” command (useful in many other situations as well).
  • Move the litter box to an inaccessible location.
  • Make sure your dog has plenty of opportunities for exercise, play, and mental stimulation each day. Obedience training and agility courses are excellent ways to engage and tire out a dog.

Poop-eating is unpleasant, but help is available. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the staff at All Creatures Veterinary Hospital, we are here for you and your pet!